Book: Precipice

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Russian Colonel General Anatoly Kozlov stood on the Seattle waterfront and watched the unloading of a massive troop carrier.  Ranks of soldiers marched out of the bowels of the ship, carrying weapons and large duffels stuffed with their personal gear.  It was a dark, grey morning and rain fell steadily.  It beaded on Kozlov’s hat and the greatcoat thrown over his shoulders, but he ignored what to him was mild, spring weather.

Looking out into Elliot Bay he saw two more of the giant ships, waiting their turn to dock and disgorge their load of fighting men.  He didn’t expect to need them as the city had been mostly cleared of infected already by the Science Directorate of the SVR who controlled the satellite signal that attracted them.  There were still some wandering around the metropolis, but nothing his men couldn’t easily handle.

“Sir?”

Kozlov turned to see one of his aides standing slightly behind him, a satellite phone held in his extended hands.

“Who is it, Vladimir?”  He growled, unhappy to have a few quiet moments disturbed.

“It is President Barinov, sir.  Personally.”  The aide looked frightened and was keeping the palm of his hand firmly over the microphone end of the device.

Kozlov snatched the phone from him and snapped it to his ear.

“Comrade President, Colonel General Kozlov speaking.  It is a pleasure, sir.”

“Where are you Kozlov?”  The President snapped in his peasant accented Russian, his voice grating on the General’s ear.

“I am in Seattle watching our troops come ashore, Comrade President.”

“Listen very carefully, General.  I have just recalled Colonel General Mostov to Moscow.” 

It took all of Kozlov’s self control to not begin trembling.  Recalled meant that General Mostov would be arrested the moment his plane touched down in Russia.  He would be thrown into a prison cell while the SVR rounded up his entire family, including distant relatives and in-laws.  Once they were all in custody the General would be put on public trial, convicted by lunch and, along with all of his family, executed in time for dinner.  Failing President Barinov was not an option.

“We have received intelligence from assets amongst the Americans about one of their soldiers who is responsible for the murder of Lieutenant General Aslinov.  I ordered General Mostov to arrest this man so he could be brought to Moscow to stand trial for his crimes, but Mostov failed.  His men were weak and let the American slip through their fingers.

“General, I want you to find this man and bring him to me.  You are to make every effort to deliver him alive.  I want to personally look into his eyes and pull the trigger.  As of now, you have my full authority to enlist any and all resources you need to accomplish this.  Kalyagin at the SVR is awaiting your call and will share all current intelligence with you.  Do not fail me, General.”

There was a click and the President was gone.  Only years of climbing his way up the ranks in the Russian military gave Kozlov the discipline to not tremble as he lowered the phone and handed it back to his aide.

“Vladimir.  Find Colonel Grushkin and have him join me immediately, then call Lieutenant General Kalyagin at SVR in Moscow.”

“Right away, Comrade General!”  The aide turned and sprinted off through the rain in search of Colonel Grushkin.

Fifteen minutes later the two Russian officers were seated in a luxury condominium that had a sweeping view of Elliot Bay and the unloading of the invading troops.  Kozlov lit an American cigarette and offered the pack to the Colonel, who declined.

Colonel Yuri Grushkin was a large, powerful man.  His shoulders and arms strained the perfectly pressed uniform he wore like a second skin.  He sat ramrod straight in the sumptuously upholstered dining chair, his hands resting in his lap as he listened to Colonel General Kozlov.  It was the middle of the night in Moscow and they were waiting for the SVR officer to come to the phone.

Grushkin was the commanding officer of the 45th Guards Spetsnaz Regiment, the bulk of which were on the first ship that unloaded that morning.  He had a well-deserved reputation for being both highly intelligent, motivated and absolutely ruthless.  His men both feared and loved him, few of them able to match his combat resume that began in Afghanistan in the early 80s.  He may have gotten older, but he was just as hard and determined as the day he first walked onto a parade ground.

He nodded when Kozlov finished speaking, remaining silent and stoic.  Though the General would never admit it, Grushkin intimidated him.  Not just the man’s physical presence, which was enough to frighten most, but also the sheer intensity of his stare.  Rumors abounded of hardened combat veterans breaking into a cold sweat just at the thought of having to face Grushkin.

“Anatoly, are you there?”  The voice came out of the satellite phone set to speaker mode, resting on the polished surface of the table.

“Good morning, Viktor,” Kozlov leaned forward and replied.  “My apologies for waking you, but the President wants this matter dealt with urgently.”

“You didn’t wake me, my friend.  I was in the President’s office when he called you.  The man doesn’t seem to need to sleep.  The delay has been gathering my staff to brief you.  I have transmitted a file to your aide, but I would like my aide to summarize for you so any questions you have can be answered.  You have the SVR’s full support, Anatoly.  We cannot fail the President as General Mostov did.”

“Thank you, Victor.  With me is Colonel Grushkin, commander of the 45th Spetsnaz.  He will be running the operation on my end.”  Kozlov leaned back and met Grushkin’s eyes, waiting for the aide in Moscow to begin speaking.

“Colonel General and Colonel, good morning.  I am Senior Captain Yulayachin and have prepared the briefing.  Please stop me with any questions.  May I proceed?”  A new voice came over the speaker.

“Proceed,” Kozlov rumbled.

“During the first election of a unified Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union, a KGB team led by Lieutenant General Fyodor Aslinov went into Berlin with the intent to influence the election to an outcome that would be favorable to Russian interests.  The Americans countered with a CIA team that was subsequently eliminated.

“In retaliation, the Americans deployed a unit of their Army’s operational detachment Delta which assassinated the entire KGB team, Lieutenant General Aslinov included.  The General had close, personal ties to President Barinov who was also in the KGB at the time.  A bounty was placed on the heads of the team, specifically the American soldier who murdered Aslinov.  Our assets within the CIA were unable to tell us who was on the team and we were never able to develop an asset within the US Army who could tell us who this man was.

“A few days ago, our Rezidentura in Australia was contacted by a CIA employee working at a listening post in Western Australia.  He provided details about the team, specifically the individual who assassinated General Aslinov.  That man is still in America and is still alive.  He is an officer in their Army and his name is Major John Chase.”

“Why did this man betray his countryman?”  Grushkin interrupted.

“The oldest reason in the world, Comrade Colonel.  Love of a woman.  He was engaged to the Major’s wife at one point and wanted her back.  We made a deal that we would capture the Major and his wife, delivering her to the American traitor in Australia.  General Mostov was alerted and dispatched a team of Spetsnaz to intercept Major Chase and his wife, but they lost contact with them in the area of Dodge City in Kansas.”

“This man is still alive?”  Kozlov asked in surprise.  “The latest briefing I received indicated that there were no surviving Americans still within the continental United States.  They are still strong in Hawaii with pockets in Alaska, but the last group of survivors evacuated to the Bahamas several days ago.”

“That is mostly correct, Comrade General,” the aide replied.  “However, the Major and his wife stayed behind.  We have an asset in Hawaii that has confirmed this.  They traveled to Idaho to rescue the pilot and passenger of an American fighter jet that was shot down by one of our patrols.  When the team that General Mostov sent failed to locate the target, they returned to base rather than completing their mission.  All members of the team have been recalled along with the General.”

“How is it that this Major and his wife are not infected by now?”  Grushkin asked.

“They were recipients of the vaccine delivered to the Americans by the GRU traitor, Captain Irina Vostov.” 

“Do we know where they are now?”  Grushkin growled.

“Not precisely, Comrade Colonel.  Our asset is not directly involved with them, and could only tell us they are in the mountains in Idaho.  Before he was recalled, General Mostov ordered a search of the Sawtooth Mountains and that is still underway.  We have lost one helicopter.  Initially it was assumed to be a mechanical failure, but the aircraft was relatively new and the flight crew was very experienced.  We currently have experts en route to verify the cause of the crash.”

“Where precisely is the crash site?”  Grushkin asked, powering on a small tablet computer. 

As the aide read off the coordinates, the Colonel punched them in and stared at the map for a few moments.  Handing the tablet to Kozlov’s aide he ordered the man to load the data file the SVR had sent onto the device.

“Do we have any further obligation as regards the Major’s wife?”  He asked.

“No, Comrade Colonel.  The asset in Australia has been arrested by their SASR.”

“Very well,” Grushkin said, standing and taking the tablet back.  “General, with your permission, I shall be departing for Idaho immediately.”

“You cannot fail, Colonel,” Kozlov said.  “Bring me Major John Chase.  If he is not alive when you find him, bring me his head.”

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